Old Hickory (Conway County)
Old Hickory in Conway County is just one of the many rural, unincorporated Arkansas communities that once served as area commercial centers and have since disappeared. Located about fifteen miles northwest of Morrilton (Conway County), the community was perhaps best known for a general store that closed in 1983.
The first documented white settler, John H. Jones, was drawn to the area in 1849 by cheap land. On September 22, 1858, a post office was established with Abihu Arnn as its first postmaster. It is said that the long-lost original name for the post office was rejected due to its being too long. One story states that Julius Mackie Washington Masingill, an early settler, then suggested naming the office after the hickory trees that grew in abundance in the area. Still another suggests that Lewisburg (Conway County) merchant Anderson Gordon recommended it be named in honor of former military leader and president Andrew Jackson, popularly known as “Old Hickory.”
Old Hickory never developed into a populated town, but by the late nineteenth century, it was home to a post office, a Baptist church, a school, a blacksmith, a general store, a grist mill, a cotton gin, and a sawmill, the latter three all owned by Elijah Thomas. The post office was discontinued on April 14, 1906.
A school for grades one through nine was opened in the 1870s. A parent/teacher organization was organized on November 1, 1938, to help finance school activities. In 1943, the school was consolidated with Wonderview (Conway County) about seven miles to the east. After consolidation, the Old Hickory school building was moved and used as a cafeteria.
The Sardis Baptist Church was chartered on December 20, 1874, with a building occupied shortly afterward. In 1875, a cemetery, where today an annual Decoration Day commemoration (the original name for Memorial Day) is held on the first Sunday of May, was established.
On November 25, 1926, a tornado tore a path through the area, destroying the school and about ten area residences. While seven county residents were killed, Old Hickory citizens escaped with only minor injuries.
Petit Jean Electric Cooperative brought electricity to the community in 1942. In 1966, an extension of State Highway 213 was completed, better connecting the citizens to other towns and weakening the importance of local businesses.
Old Hickory is best known for the general store opened by William H. Hawkins in 1895. It remained in almost continuous operation for almost ninety years. The original store building burned in 1906. A new building was constructed, and, in 1926, Mayne Hawkins, grandson of the store’s founder, and his wife, Matilda, purchased the business. In 1932, that building was razed and a new one constructed. Over the years, the old general store, one of the last in Arkansas, became an area attraction. The store’s history was documented in several newspaper, magazine, and television features.
The business aspect of Old Hickory came to an end with the closure of Mayne Hawkins’s general store. All that remains today are a few residences and the Old Hickory Baptist Church. The area that the settlement once occupied is now cattle pasture and chicken houses.
For additional information:
Conway County, Arkansas: Our Home, Our Land, Our People. Little Rock: Historical Publications of Arkansas, 1992.
“The Ending of Old Hickory Store.” Rural Arkansas (January 1984): 4–6, 8.
Tembo, Susan. “General Store Was Focal Point of Community in Old Hickory.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 13, 2000, p. 6R.
Trower, Kathy. “Old Hickory Was Once Home to Famous General Store.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 12, 2001, p. 15R.
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 03/24/2017